Personal tools
Document Actions

EBM Matrix proposal

by jpublic — last modified 20-10-2006 19:10

NCEAS Ecosystem-Based Management Working Group

Proposal for Follow-up Activities


Developing a Matrix-based Approach for Assessing and Managing

Threats to Marine Ecosystems

Summary Outline

In this proposal, we 1) define our research objective, 2) state the impetus for our request for additional support, 3) summarize background supporting the need for our research, 4) provide an overview of the intended uses and applications of our research, 5) describe the methods that we will use in order to accomplish our research objective, 6) demonstrate our preliminary results, 7) delineate a timeline for successful completion, and 8) request the resources necessary to ensure completion.

Student Investigators

Kirstin Holsman

University of Washington

John J. Meyer

University of New Hampshire

Thomas H. Young,

University of California, Santa Barbara

Participants in the University of New Hampshire Seminar on EBM

Faculty Advisors

Jeb Byers

University of New Hampshire

Dan L. Childers

Florida International University

Julia K. Parrish

University of Washington

Andy Rosenberg

University of New Hampshire

Developing a Matrix-based Approach for

Assessing and Managing Threats to Marine Ecosystems

1. Research Objective

We propose to develop a database tool with a matrix-user interface that will allow scientists and managers to categorize and prioritize threats to marine ecosystems in order to better inform management decisions.

2. Impetus for Proposal

To effectively prioritize and manage threats to marine ecosystems, four fundamental questions must be answered: 1) What are the ecosystem goods and services to be protected and conserved? 2) What are the threats to and influences upon these ecosystem goods and services? 3) What is the relative value of each ecosystem good and service? and 4) What is the relative importance or impact level of each threat and influence upon these goods and services?

We have designed a conceptual framework for the construction of a database with a matrix-user interface that will permit managers and scientists to synthesize answers to these four key questions. We request additional funding and resources from NCEAS in order to complete the construction of this database and to write a methods-based paper that outlines the efficacy of this approach for assessing and managing threats to marine ecosystems. Support from NCEAS is requested to finance travel and living expenses for three members of our research group and one faculty advisor to visit NCEAS for a working group in June. Support is also requested to provide time with Shaun Walbridge to assist with construction of the database and creation of an EBM Matrix home page on the Internet.

3. Background

Marine ecosystems provide an enormous variety of goods and services to humans, with an estimated global economic value in excess of $20x1012 per year (Costanza et al. 1997). These goods and services include the maintenance and regulation of basic life-support systems, the production of essential and non-essential resources, and the provision of cultural, aesthetic, or educational functions (de Groot 2002). Goods and services from marine ecosystems thus encompass such diverse assets as food production, recreation, habitat provisioning, raw materials, nutrient cycling, and climate regulation (de Groot 2002).

The goods and services derived from the marine environment differ tremendously from ecosystem to ecosystem. Likewise, the factors that threaten the sustainability of these goods and services are also highly system-dependent. Thus, to ensure the continued availability of these goods and services, it is essential that scientists and managers together identify and address the threats that face marine ecosystems in a manner that reflects both the relative severity of these threats and the relative importance of the goods and services that they impact.

A multitude of diverse threats pose serious management challenges for marine ecosystems today (Pew Oceans Commission 2003). These threats range in spatial scale from local to regional to global; may have sources that are local or distant, and discrete or continuous; and may originate from human activities or non-human processes in marine, freshwater aquatic, or terrestrial environments. For instance, fishing, pollution, global climate change, invasive species, agricultural runoff, and urban development have all been identified as significant impacts upon many marine ecosystems (Pew Oceans Commission 2003).

Given constraints imposed by limited funding and human resources amidst this diversity of threats, managers of marine ecosystems are inevitably forced to decide which threats to manage in order to most effectively sustain ecosystem goods and services (Gonzalez 1996). One of the major barriers to implementing effective ecosystem-based management is the difficulty of prioritizing threats that exact the greatest cumulative effects in a given ecosystem (Gulf of Maine Counsel 2004). Threats must then be addressed with management measures aimed at the correct targets and acting at the appropriate scale (Christensen et al. 1996). The need for science to guide this prioritization of threats and to effectively inform management decisions calls for a transparent medium by which scientists may communicate and document the intensity of ecosystem threats for management consideration (Pullin et al. 2004).

4. Overview of Database and Matrix

We aim to construct a database that will provide a method to catalogue and synthesize information on 1) the severity of specific threats and influences to marine ecosystems, 2) the value of an ecosystem’s goods and services, and 3) the manner in which multiple threats and influences are connected to and partitioned among the various ecosystem goods and services that they impact.

This complex set of information may then be presented to scientists and managers in a multi-dimensional matrix that ranks each combination of threats and influences x goods and services. The resulting matrix is intended to provide a user-friendly visual representation of the prioritized ecosystem threats as potential targets for management. The standardized axes of the matrix will permit its use for comparison across multiple ecosystems, yet its customizable nature will allow scientists and managers to identify specific threats and influences that occur within their system.

Additionally, due to the comprehensive and flexible nature of the database, this matrix-based approach is expected to produce opportunities for further exploratory analyses of the threats to marine ecosystems, both within and between systems. For instance, investigations of coherence between spatial and temporal scales of ecosystem threats and the scales of management may be easily accomplished with our proposed database.

5. Proposed Methods

The construction of our database tool and matrix-user interface for assessing threats to marine ecosystems involves five primary steps: 1) Develop an organizational scheme for Ecosystem Influences and Ecosystem Components, 2) Create a matrix framework, 3) Develop a metadata scheme for each matrix cell, 4) Construct a database to parameterize matrices for real ecosystems, and 5) Create an EBM Matrix home page on the Internet.

  1. Develop an organizational scheme for Ecosystem Influences and Ecosystem Components:

Ecosystem Influences consist of factors that impact marine ecosystems and may potentially pose threats to ecosystem goods and services. Ecosystem components consist of goods and services that marine ecosystems may contribute or produce for human benefit or consumption. The organizational scheme for ecosystem influences and components will be a standardized list within a hierarchically nested taxonomy. The standardized list of influences and components will be selected to represent the most parsimonious categories necessary to capture the variability of threats to marine ecosystems. The hierarchically nested taxonomy of these will allow a flexible framework with which managers and scientists can further customized and assess threats to a particular ecosystem.

  1. Create a matrix framework

The matrix will consist of ecosystem influences along the vertical axis, representing the rows of the matrix, and ecosystem components along the horizontal axis, representing the columns of the matrix. Individual ecosystem influences and components can be scored initially based on overall strength or importance within a given system. Detailed interactions between specific ecosystem influences and components will be parsed out within the body of the matrix where each cell will represent a unique combination of an ecosystem influence and an ecosystem component. Each cell will be ranked independently based on the level of impact of an influence upon a component. Each ecosystem influence and component (row and column, respectively) will receive an overall ranking based upon its aggregate impact upon or importance within the ecosystem.

  1. Develop a metadata scheme for each matrix cell

To ensure the transparency of the matrix, each cell will have a set of metadata attached to the ranking, describing how the ranking was estimated. The metadata will include a listing of sources documenting the relationship between the influence and the component, will state whether the impact is direct or indirect, and will delineate whether the rank was assigned for a single study system or multiple study systems nested within the larger ecosystem of interest.

  1. Construct a database to parameterize matrices for real ecosystems

The database will allow managers and scientists to import information into matrices based on the organizational schemes developed for Ecosystem Influences and Ecosystem Components.

5) Create an EBM Matrix home page on the Internet

We intend to create an EBM Matrix home page on the Internet that will make this database and matrix tool accessible to all scientists and managers and permit the dissemination of this approach for assessing threats to marine ecosystems.

6. Preliminary Results

To date, we have developed a working framework for parts 1-3 of the Methods.

  1. Develop an organizational scheme for ecosystem influences and ecosystem components:

We have created a hierarchical, standardized list of influences that should be identified for each system, as well as provided a method for entering and categorizing particular system influences (Fig. 1). This list of influences was largely compiled from those identified by individual case studies within the NCEAS Ecosystem-Based Management database and will likely expand as influences not identified by the NCEAS case studies are recognized. Similarly, we are compiling a list of ecosystem components based on processes and goods and services identified by de Groot et al. (2002). These standardized components will also be nested within a hierarchical framework that allows for categorization of particular processes or goods unique to a given system.

  1. Create a matrix framework

Manipulations of the axes and the application of specific case studies to the matrix are ongoing to test the robustness of our labels.

  1. Develop a metadata scheme for each matrix cell

Individual cell rankings are subjective and need qualification through accessible metadata. Providing standardized information relating to each cell (Figure 3) allows for an immediate explanation of a given interaction term between ecosystem influences and components.

7. Timeline for Completion

1) April 1, 2005

Finalize organizational schemes for both the standard and hierarchical matrix axes

2) May 1, 2005

Finalize framework of alternative matrices with sample case studies (e.g. Channel Islands, Willapa Bay, Gulf of Maine).

3) June 1, 2005

Conduct sensitivity analyses for matrices from sample case studies to test for the robustness of the matrices’ parameters and to detect possible biases in cell ranks.

4) June 2005

Meet at NCEAS for one week, with student representatives from UCSB, UW, and UNH, with one faculty advisor, and with database developer, Shaun Walbridge. Construct matrix database and implement matrix parameters into the NCEAS EBM database. Create an EBM Matrix home page to make the database accessible to scientists and managers.

5) September 1, 2005

Complete rough draft of a manuscript describing the matrix-based approach for assessing and managing threats to marine ecosystems and detailing the methods used to develop the database. Distribute the paper for comments and revision.

6) October 1, 2005

Submit final manuscript to a scientific, management, or policy journal for peer review. Ideas for possible journals include Biological Conservation, Coastal Management, Conservation Biology, Environmental Management, Marine Ecology Progress Series, and Marine Policy.

Note: If Shaun Walbridge assists us with the construction of the matrix database, we will include him as a co-author of our final manuscript.

8. Resources Requested

We request to hold a five day working group at NCEAS in late spring/early summer 2005 to finalize the matrix and apply it to the NCEAS database. Costs include travel/living expenses for one UNH member, one UW member to Santa Barbara, and one faculty advisor, living expenses for one UCSB member, and the cost to work with Database Czar Shaun Walbridge for three days.

Travel/Living Expenses

Airfare: $1850 (UW, UNH, Faculty Advisor)

Hotel: $1800 (6 nights @$100/night for UW, UNH, and Faculty Advisor)

Ground Transportation: $150 (taxi, bus for UW, UNH, and Faculty Advisor)

Travel Reimbursement: $100 (gas/insurance/depreciation of car for UCSB)

Per Diem: $1196 (7 days for UW, UNH, and Faculty Advisor and 5 days for UCSB @ $46/day)

(Amounts based on past NCEAS allowances for travel/living expenses)

NCEAS In-house Resources

Small conference room with Internet and computer projection capabilities

Shawn Walbridge’s time for three days = max. 24 hrs.



Christensen, N.L., A.M. Bartuska, J.H. Brown, S. Carpenter, C. D’Antonio, R. Francis, J.F. Franklin, J.A. MacMahon, R.F. Noss, D.J. Parsons, C.H. Peterson, M.G. Turner, and R.G. Woodmansee. 1996. The report of the Ecological Society of America Committee on the Scientific Basis for Ecosystem Management. Ecological Applications 6: 665-691.

Costanza, R., R. d’Arge, R.S. de Groot, S. Farber, M. Grasso, B. Hannon, K. Limburg, S. Naeem, R.V. O’Neill, J. Paruelo, R.G. Raskin, P. Sutton, and M. van den Belt. 1997. The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature 387: 253-260.

De Groot, R.S., M.A. Wilson, and R.M.J. Boumans. 2002. A typology for the classification, description and valuation of ecosystem functions, goods and services. Ecological Economics 41: 393-408.

Gonzalez, O.J. 1996. Formulating an ecosystem approach to environmental protection. Environmental Management 20: 597-605.

Gulf of Maine Counsel on the Marine Environment in collaboration with Coastal States Organization, Cooperative Institute for Coastal Estuarine and Environmental Technology, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 2004. A Survey of Coastal Managers’ Science and Technology Needs Prompts a Retrospective Look at Science-based Management in the Gulf of Maine. Synthesis report of the Gulf of Maine Summit. October 2004. St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada.

Pew Oceans Commission. 2003. America’s Living Oceans: Charting a Course for Sea Change. A Report to the Nation. May 2003. Pew Oceans Commission, Arlington, Virginia.

Pullin, A.S., T.M. Knight, D.A. Stone, and K. Charman. 2004. Do conservation managers use scientific evidence to support their decision-making? Biological Conservation 119: 245-252.

Figures Captions

Figure 1) The Hierarchically Nested Ecosystem Influences Taxonomy. The standardized list of ecosystems influences is nested within a hierarchical framework. Data will be entered for boxes in red, further customized influences may be entered within these categories (blue boxes).

Figure 2) A Sample Matrix with Cells, Rows, and Columns Parameterized. Specific cell values are entered individually for this matrix (in contrast to automatic values calculated from the sum or product of influence and component rankings).

Figure 3) The Metadata Schema for Each Matrix Cell. An example of nested metadata within each cell that can be queried by users of the matrix.

Figure 1

Figure 2:

Figure 3:

Related content

re: matrix structure

Posted by jpublic at 20-10-2006 19:10

You may want to think your use of standarized axes if you want this to be useful to the public.

color choice

Posted by Stephanie Hampton at 31-10-2006 13:55

More important than your axes are color choices in your figures.


Posted by Stephanie Hampton at 31-10-2006 13:56

Maybe our premise is flawed here. Maybe we should be wroking on rotifers instead.


Built with Plone